The Trapped Assassin
Author's Note: Thank you for waiting for so long. I'll just let you get right into the story. But thanks. Seriously.
Disclaimer: I don't own CHUCK. I don't make money writing CHUCK fan fiction.
Strange, how quickly a person could lose themselves in someone so fully that they not only lose track of time, they forget time exists in the first place.
There was a tall, lithe, strong body moving on top of hers, Sarah knew. Her brain was foggy, memory not exactly working right. She'd just been repeating his name over and over, whimpering and panting it into his ear, and now she just couldn't remember what the name actually was…
She slapped her hand down against the mattress, twisting her fist in the sheets, and with a hard shove, she arched her body up against his and flipped them over.
Unfortunately, not only had the ex-assassin forgotten about the existence of time and the name of the man she was having sex with, she also forgot where the mattress began and ended. Or, rather, she'd misplaced it.
Because she'd already been lying at the edge of the mattress, as crooked as it was upon its frame, and her quick shove to roll Chuck onto his back ended up pitching them both over the side.
She squeaked in surprise as he yelped, that terrifying sensation of falling surging through her, and then there was the thunk of them landing on the floor in a pile of limbs.
Chuck had landed flat on his back, Sarah on top of him, her body tangled with his and the sheets tangled somewhere at their feet. Was he okay? She didn't know. But then she felt his chest rise as he began to breathe again. (Well, it was more like wheezing.)
It was good enough for her.
She pulled her arms out from under him and braced them on the floor, sighing at the coolness of it against her hot, sweaty palms. Then she pushed herself up, shifted her knees to press them into the floor, and began rocking into his lap.
Chuck groaned, throwing his head back and wincing as he bonked it against the hard floor. Sarah stopped to ask if he was okay, but he clamped his hands down on her thighs and panted "Keep going I'm fine" in such a rush she almost didn't understand him.
She surreptitiously slid one of her hands around the back of his head to protect him from himself, and then she began to buck on top of him, back and forth, back and forth, swinging her hips, biting her lip and letting her head sag forward.
His sighs were getting tighter, his chest heaving…she was so close…and as she felt him come inside of her, her body shook with a climax of its own. Chuck's hands closed around her waist, his breaths coming out in growls, until he finally sagged down against the floor, spent.
Sarah used the last vestiges of energy, fighting aching limbs, to lift herself off of his lap, flopping onto her back next to him, careful of her own head. The cool floor was almost too cool against her damp heated back and bum, but she reveled in it, panting for breath, covering her face in her hands.
As she pushed the hair that clung to her face with sweat out of her eyes, she craned her neck to look down and started giggling breathlessly. One of Chuck's legs was trapped in the bedsheets, suspended in the air, the white cotton twisted around his calf like a sling.
She pushed herself up onto her elbow, still giggling as much as was possible what with the whole not being able to breathe thing, and reached over to yank on the sheets until he was free. His heel slammed into the floor a little more violently than she'd meant for it to and she winced as she heard him let out a droll, "Ow."
"Sorry." She giggled some more and then let her body flop back to the floor. Sarah couldn't stop the long, satisfied moan. "We're going to hell."
"In a hand basket woven by Aphrodite herself," he grumbled, still panting.
The laugh that came out of her embarrassingly resembled a loud honk as she rolled onto her side, away from him, still trying to catch her breath.
She just couldn't find it within her to be embarrassed. There was no room for shame.
She was happy, living her bliss or whatever it was those personal growth seminars had on their brochures. She felt unstoppable. Untouchable.
Sarah blinked and rolled back over to face Chuck who was staring at the ceiling, his jaw slack. "What?" she asked.
"I'm immortal. This is what immortality feels like. I'm Superman."
She beamed at him. "Does that make me Lois Lane?"
"Probably more like Wonder Woman, honestly." His eyes raked down her body in a way that instilled in her a fit of boldness.
"Hmmm, even better. Doesn't she have a lasso and cuff thingies on her wrists?"
Chuck turned his head completely, gaping at her, his eyes wide. "Why do you do this to me?"
"Say nerdy stuff like that to rev me up after I've just—we've just…All that." He gestured to the bed, and she noticed for the first time just how much the mattress hung off of the frame. She felt the heat of the realization in her cheeks and she looked away.
"Just an observation," she said with a shrug.
"Just an observation," he drawled, giving her a flat look. "Pfft. We've only known each other a little over a week, but that doesn't mean I don't know that you know that you saying nerdy stuff like that makes me crazy."
Sarah giggled. "True. Still. It was an observation."
"An incredibly bawdy one," he chuckled and she grinned cheekily at him, wrinkling her nose. "How'd you know about that stuff, anyway? Miss I'll-Never-Be-A-Nerd."
"I've seen pictures of Wonder Woman, Chuck. I know almost nothing about her but I've seen pictures and the TV show. She has that lasso thing and the wrist shackles."
"Oh. Good point." Then he paused. "And they're not shackles. They're gauntlets. Or I guess you could say cuffs."
"But not handcuffs, right?"
All she got was a pitiful whimper as he covered his face and she laughed evilly.
A moment later, he ever so slowly eased himself up to his elbows, grunting with the effort, finally sitting up completely, leaning against the side of the bed and sighing in relief. "That's gonna bruise."
"What is?" she asked, watching the ripple in his muscles as he stretched his back, reaching his arms up over his head.
She snorted, pushing to sit up as well and letting out a "phew".
"Hey, let's play a game. What time do you think it is?"
Sarah laughed and swiped her hair out of her face again. "I dunno, 10 maybe?"
"Kay. Judging by how sore my entire body is, I'm going to say closer to 11 or 11:30." He climbed to his knees and used the mattress to clamber up high enough to see the clock on the nightstand as Sarah waited. "No fucking way."
"What?" Her brow furrowed.
"It's almost 12:30. 12:28 to be exact."
"What?!" She moved her aching limbs to crawl up next to him and look.
"What, you thought I was lying to you?" he asked, amused.
"No, I just—I wanted to see it for myself. Holy shit." It had been a little after 8 in the morning when she'd knocked on Chuck's door. And she knew her cheeks were probably bright red as she turned to give him a wide-eyed stare. That had been close to 4 and a half hours of sex—and they'd barely taken a single breath in that time. No wonder everything was hurting.
"There's gotta be a hot tub somewhere in this resort, right?"
That made her laugh. "There better be." And she let her face fall into the mattress, her torso draped over it, arms up by her head. She let out a soft moan of satisfaction and just stayed that way for a few moments before she heard Chuck groan as he climbed to his feet.
She peered up at him as he reached up to feel the back of his head, wincing a little.
"Your head okay?" she asked, letting him help her stand as she wobbled a little. Her legs felt like they were made out of jell-O.
"Huh? Oh. Yeah. My head'll be fine. Just a bump."
She reached up to feel the back of his head, too, mimicking his wince as he hissed through his teeth. "Sorry," she breathed, pulling her fingers back. "That's definitely a bump, though."
Sarah nibbled on her cheek for a moment. For the first time in hours, the ex-assassin had her feet firmly on the ground—both literally and figuratively. She knew Graham would try to call her. He would want to talk to her. Maybe he'd try to persuade her or maybe he'd hand over her last orders—instructions on how she would effectively sever her ties with the CIA.
She was now unemployed. Maybe. She wasn't sure how this would become official. And that was why she needed to take Graham's call when it came.
"Well, I'm going to put clothes on, but do you maybe wanna go down and eat something? Somewhere? With me? I'm calling to have someone sent up to, erm…clean the room and change the sheets and all that." He cleared his throat and she saw the redness of his cheeks as he leaned down to straighten the mattress.
"We did sorta…mess the bed up a little…didn't we?" she teased, because she couldn't help it.
He gave her a look that made her giggle and then he left her side, grabbing clean clothes and beginning to dress.
Sarah stood there for a moment, staring out of the window at the sea beyond. And then she shook herself and slowly collected her clothes off of the floor surrounding the bed, stepping into her underwear, shrugging on her bra, shirt, pants…
"You know…Why don't I meet you down in the lobby in fifteen? If that's okay…I, um, I should check in with my boss." It wasn't exactly a lie. As she picked up her phone she saw no missed calls. Had Casey delivered her message yet, she wondered?
"Sure! No problem. Is…" He shrugged a button up on over a white muscle shirt. "Is, um, everything okay with your job? You're not in trouble, are you?"
She saw the teasing glint in the look he gave her and she smiled, shaking her head. "No, no. Just a check-in to, uh, to see how things are going back at the office. You know."
"Oh. Wait, do you have an office?"
She glanced up at him as she stepped into her shoes, fixing her hair back behind her ear. Woops. "No, I don't. I don't have an office, really. But we have…I mean, like any agency, we have a headquarters and—So fifteen minutes, yeah?" she repeated, quickly changing the subject.
"Yeah. Yeah, of course. I called SOLO HQ last night to check in on everything. So I totally get it. Can't completely disconnect from the job, right?"
"Especially when you own the business," she teased, an impressed glint in her eye.
His smile made her feel like she got away with the minor slip, and she nodded, pulling her hair back with a hair tie from her jeans pocket, patting the messy bun a little, and pocketing her phone and key.
And then she realized at that moment that she had no knife. And she thought maybe this was a turning point. Maybe she wouldn't need to bring knives with her everywhere anymore.
That said, when she slid out into the hallway, taking the elevator rather than further exacerbate the ache in her limbs by taking the stairs, and eventually getting back into her own suite, Sarah found herself strapping a knife onto her thigh under the flowing floor-length skirt she changed into, slipping another into her purse, along with her smallest gun.
Just because she'd made the decision to leave the CIA, it didn't mean she was impervious to the threat of being involved with the CIA. People out there still wanted her dead. The Ice Queen still had enemies.
She may have given up the life of an assassin, but her enemies weren't going to give up trying to kill her.
It would be foolish, even deadly, to think otherwise.
Director Graham disconnected the number she'd used to call him during her mission. It was always a different number every time so that it could never be tracked. This one, apparently, was no longer in service.
And that most likely meant he deemed the mission over. More than that, she thought to herself gloomily, he must also have deemed her time with the agency over as well. Casey must have gotten her answer to him. And it surely wasn't the one he thought he'd get.
Not after everything.
Still, just never hearing from him or the agency again didn't feel right. It didn't feel like a proper parting.
It was unfair to expect to be able to leave on good terms. This was the CIA. She was the CIA's most effective and most secretive weapon. She wasn't someone who punched numbers into an Excel spreadsheet for a call center. There would be no bon voyage party with a banner and cake in the break room.
It felt strange…almost creepy…that they seemed to just let her go so easily. She had to be on her guard. Was it even legal for her to be out of the CIA without proper procedure? Handing over her badge and all of that?
This was her decision and in spite of the melancholy she felt, Sarah was sure she'd chosen right.
Her wicked morning with Chuck Bartowski aside, everything just seemed brighter. Her future, though uncertain, felt more concrete. She had the ability to make her own choices now. And she'd saved a fortune. Mostly because she'd thought she'd maybe have to bail her dad out of jail someday, but…
Well, she didn't know where he was. And she had no way of finding him.
She didn't mind the idea of using that money to get herself back on her feet. Live somewhere new. Be someone new. Or, rather, be Sarah Walker.
The where and how was still to be determined, but she knew who she was now. Sort of. She had a start. And now she had a path to discovering even more about herself. Her real self.
She spotted Chuck standing in the middle of the lobby with his hands in his pockets, staring up at the grandly decorated ceiling high above them, a look on his face like…Well, exactly how she felt. Like she was somehow living someone else's life—someone else's happiness—and she wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
"Hey!" she chirped as she neared him.
He lowered his gaze to her and smiled. And damn her if she didn't see shades of something special in that smile.
Sarah was staring at her phone at the end of the bed when the loud knock sounded on her suite door. She jumped a bit and frowned, scooting off of the bed and padding through the suite to the door.
On her way there, she managed to snag a knife from its hiding place and slid it into the back of her yoga pants. She'd only had one full day of freedom and she wasn't about to let someone get the jump on her now.
She cracked the door open and peeked out, opening it much wider when she saw who stood in the hallway.
"Oh! Ellie!" She knew she looked shocked and confused all at once, but she couldn't push it back. What was Chuck's sister doing here at eight o'clock at night? And she couldn't resist smiling at the same time. Because she thought she'd never see her again two nights earlier after the double date.
"Sorry for barging in…Uh…" She hoisted the large sack of something in her arms a bit higher to bring it to Sarah's attention. "Mind if I come in and unload this for a sec?"
"Oh! God! Yes! I mean, no. No, of course not!" Sarah swung the door open even more, moving out of the surgeon's way as she hobbled in and eased the sack down onto the floor, grunting with the effort.
"Phew!" She pushed the hair that escaped her ponytail out of her face and stood up again, huffing and puffing. "Sorry. I know I just showed up out of the blue. I made Chuck tell me what suite you're in. You might want to go check on him—I left him tied to a chair." She winked and Sarah giggled. "But Devon and I went to a marketplace near Mantega, per our concierge's recommendation. The fruit vendor's son was playing on this wall thing and fell off. Dislocated his arm." Sarah's eyes widened. "Devon set it for him and we took him to the local clinic. Alain wouldn't let us leave without repaying us somehow. So now we've got two massive sacks of avocados and various citrus fruit. I think I saw a head of lettuce go in there at some point. I don't know." She put a hand to her forehead. "Super nice of him, but we had to cut the rest of our trip off because we didn't want to lug two of these around for hours."
Sarah found herself laughing a little bit at the couple's predicament, earning a flat but amused look from the brunette. "Sorry. It's a little funny, though."
"Well, I'm pushing some of it off on you. Take what you want."
"Might be able to set up a business on the sly down by the beach," Sarah teased. "Selling avocados to tourists. Just pretend you can't speak English and wear a bikini. I promise you'll rake in the dough."
Sarah realized at that moment what she'd just said. And although Ellie laughed with a "Good idea!", the younger woman felt her own amusement die. She kept the smile plastered on her face, though.
The thing was, she knew all too well how easily tourists were swindled. Especially American tourists. She remembered a particularly large take in Amsterdam. Spot the fanny pack, and you had yourself a sucker. Her vibrant blue eyes and blond hair, the dimples she sported—twelve year old Doutzen Van Dijk could sell anything as her father looked on from not too far away.
Sarah shook herself a little and looked at the other woman, still with a friendly smile on her face.
"Take some of this off of me," Ellie continued. "How am I going to eat 70,000 avocados? I like avocados, but you know how these things work. They're all not ripe enough to eat and you check the next day and they're all too ripe. At the same time."
Sarah laughed. "Oh God, it's true. Avocados were made by the devil." Ellie shrugged modestly. "I'll take a few, but I don't know what you're going to do with the rest."
"I might ship them back to Chuck's friend. I'm sure he's told you about Morgan. The little badger is obsessed with guacamole."
"I have heard about him," she giggled. "Just a little. Never heard he was a badger, though, so that's making me rethink things a little." Ellie laughed and Sarah felt a lift in her spirits. "Although it's not exactly legal to ship—"
"Oh I know, I know. I'm just at a loss. Maybe I can get the hotel to take them off my hands." She huffed and shrugged. "I'll call the front desk, see if they can help me. I hate wasting food."
Sarah agreed heartily but silently. Go hungry for long enough, even just the one time, and you never waste food again. For a moment, she wondered if Ellie and Chuck had ever gone hungry.
And she took that thought with her as the two of them knelt down and started going through the bag, Sarah taking a few avocados, lemons, and some tangerines out of the bag, piling them on the nearby table.
"So Chuck told me about how you saved his dumb ass from being whooped by a French surfer."
Sarah laughed, surprised by the quick change of subject but amused by Ellie's take on the situation. "Aww, he wasn't dumb. He just didn't understand."
Ellie gave her a flat look. "It's sweet you're sticking up for him, but who thinks touching a stranger's surfboard is okay?"
"He's friendly," Sarah said with a shrug, still grinning in amusement.
"That he is," Ellie chuckled. "But thank you, anyway."
"For what?" she asked, shrugging again and standing up, brushing her hands together to get rid of the dirt from the produce.
"For looking out for him. He's a capable guy, don't get me wrong. But he still needs some looking after every so often. And I'm not always around to do it. I know that wasn't on your mind at the time, you were just being kind, but still." She stood up as well, poking the much emptier sack with the toe of her sandal.
She sounded like the big sister Chuck described her as in those quiet moments when they were alone and the older woman came up. The ex-assassin wasn't as attuned to her own emotions, though she liked to think she'd been getting better at it lately, even before meeting Chuck, but Ellie was a lot like her brother. She projected her emotions, though Sarah noticed she didn't necessarily wear them on her sleeve the way Chuck did.
She was better at keeping it from showing. But Sarah was a spy for most of her life. And it was easy to see the lingering concern and worry in the sister who'd spent her teen and adult years raising her younger brother. She thought maybe Ellie would never stop worrying about Chuck, no matter how old they got.
And that spike of envy hit her in the chest again.
"I just didn't want him to get punched in the face for a silly misunderstanding. That surfer had his head way up his own ass."
Ellie snorted. "I'm not surprised. He was probably looking for a fight."
"Men. In any country, they're idiots."
"Some less than others."
"But still idiots."
Sarah laughed. "The best part is how hard he tried to hit on me. He was definitely banking on me joining him for dinner, drinks, and something else. Even in my desperate days, that would've been a no." She rolled her eyes. "Meanwhile, Chuck was standing right there, all confused and befuddled, obviously not knowing what the two of us were saying since he doesn't know French."
"Of course he hit on you. Oooof course he did." Ellie giggled and rolled her eyes as well. "You should've seen the guy trying to hit on me at the club a few nights ago. I swear Devon never left my side, save for two seconds. And that guy found me in those two seconds on my way to the bathroom."
"What'd you do?"
"I just waved my hands and pointed to my ears like I couldn't hear him. And repeated over and over, 'I don't know French. Sorry. American. Sorry.' He eventually gave up on me and let me go pee."
Sarah laughed, genuinely enamored with the image Ellie had just presented. "Yeah, so you don't need any help from me. I think you can handle yourself here."
"Yeeahh, I'm good." She wrinkled her nose and Sarah thought Chuck's sister had never looked so much like him as she did in that moment.
Then she waved her hand. "Anyway, the reason I brought that up is that Chuck said, um, he said you were going snorkeling when all that happened."
"Oh. Yeah. Yeah, I did end up snorkeling, yeah." And blowing up a yacht but she didn't need to know that.
"That's been on my bucket list since I was a kid. Snorkeling."
"You've never done it?"
"Noo, no. I've done plenty of things but never that. Sort of…a small fear thing, to be completely honest with you. Chuck made sure we never missed Shark Week when we were growing up," she added in a flat voice, making a face to match, and Sarah chuckled. It made sense Chuck liked Shark Week. He seemed like the type that wanted to learn everything he could about…well, whatever he could get his hands on.
That had included her, so far. And she didn't just mean in the sack.
He really liked asking questions. And in spite of leaving the CIA, she wasn't sure how many of them she wanted to answer.
"Well, there were no sharks when I went last week, so you don't have to worry about that," Sarah said reassuringly. "I think shark sightings are actually pretty rare in the Mediterranean, but I'm no marine biologist."
"Oh I know." Ellie waved her hand. "I'm not worried. That's why I was, uh, I was actually wondering if you might go with us tomorrow."
Sarah felt herself make a face, and she wasn't sure exactly what it looked like. Maybe surprised? But Ellie seemed to feel the need to explain further, putting her hand on Sarah's arm.
"Obviously, you don't have to. I know you're on vacation here, too, and I'm sure you want to do your own thing. You probably have an adventurous schedule all planned out for yourself." She paused and Sarah didn't know if she should say something right then. Did Ellie want her to? She couldn't be sure. And she felt incredibly awkward as Ellie finally continued…a bit haltingly. "I just know Devon's only ever done, like, camping and hiking type stuff. And he jumped out of an airplane once. Thankfully before I met him because that shit is not happening again now that we're getting married." Sarah snorted at that. "But he's not good at water stuff. And Chuck, dear sweet man, I love him to bits, but he has no clue how to do anything water-related that doesn't include swimming back and forth in a straight line faster than the person next to him."
Sarah smiled slowly. "So Chuck is a swimmer, huh?"
"In high school," Ellie said. "He had a few trials in college but it wasn't his thing. Said they woke up too early in the morning for him." She giggled. "He's not much of a morning person, which I'm sure you've discovered."
The brunette's smile fell and her eyes went wide as saucers as she realized what she just said. And, unlike her brother, she didn't try to backpedal or rush to shove her foot further into her mouth. There was no rambling or spiraling. And as cute as Chuck was whenever he'd done it, Sarah had to give Ellie major credit when the woman simply continued on.
"Like I said, you don't have to. I just thought I'd take it upon myself to ask."
Sarah tucked a bit of hair behind her ear shyly and stood up finally. "Well, I…Does Chuck want me to go? I mean, he probably wants to spend time with you two, don't you think?"
This time Ellie snorted as she also stood. "Please. Not that he despises us or anything, but I'm pretty sure he only agreed when I asked him earlier because he felt compelled. I'm kind of persuasive, and also I learned really early in our lives how easy it is to guilt trip him. I have no shame." She had a mischievous glint in her eye to go with the innocent shrug.
"Still…Are you sure he wants me there?"
"If he doesn't, it's only because he imagines it'll be embarrassing."
"Why would it be embarrassing?"
Ellie giggled. "Tall gangly man in a wetsuit? Kinda embarrassing."
Sarah laughed. "What if I like tall gangly men?"
That made the other woman lift an eyebrow. "Then I'd say my brother found himself the perfect woman."
Far from perfect. But she smiled at Ellie anyways. "Besides, the wetsuits aren't mandatory if you're just snorkeling."
"No, no, no. If I'm snorkeling, I'm snorkeling. We're doing this," Ellie said, pointing down emphatically. "The full enchilada—or, like, the French equivalent to an enchilada."
"I'm not sure there is a French equivalent to an enchilada," Sarah chuckled. "But I get you. You've got goggles, flippers, and snorkels and all of that?"
Ellie's face went blank. "Um…"
The ex-spy chuckled again. "See, now I have to go tomorrow. If I don't, you three won't even make it past the dock."
Chuck's sister squealed in excitement and clapped. "I know I should be a little offended by that, but I'm not because I'm just glad you're coming!"
Sarah laughed and shook her head. "I'll take you to where I rented. They've got surfboards and kayaks and paddle boards, too. Cheap prices, good quality."
"Perfect! Thank you, Sarah. Ahh! I'm so excited!" Ellie looked like she might hug her for a second, but instead she reined herself in and moved to pick up the sack of produce and swing it over her shoulder carefully. "Well! Bright and early in the morning?"
"How early is early?"
"We were planning on breakfast at 8. Is that too early?"
Sarah chuckled. "I was teasing, mostly. Unlike Chuck, I am a morning person. Much to my own annoyance."
Ellie widened her eyes sarcastically and drawled, "I know exactly what you mean." She moved towards the door of Sarah's suite. "See you in the morning?"
"Yeah. Absolutely." And she felt really good saying it. Because she would see her in the morning. Nothing was stopping her from seeing Ellie Bartowski in the morning.
"Kay. G'night! Thanks for taking some of this off my hands."
"Sure," she said in amusement, seeing Ellie out.
As she shut the door, she hastened into the bedroom again and looked at her phone.
She sighed and nibbled on her lip. And then she unlocked it and pulled the only other number she had on her phone up and tapped the speech bubble next to it. She was glad she'd always taken the precaution of buying her own phone for missions, setting up her own plans, and keeping that part of her existence out of the control of the CIA. It was the one bit of freedom she knew Graham had pulled some strings to allow. Maybe it was a sign of respect. Or maybe he knew giving her a little something to ensure her trust might behoove him. Either way, she was glad.
That meant her phone still worked and she wouldn't have to run off to find another one. It also meant the CIA couldn't track her so easily.
And they wouldn't see her text the man she'd spent time with since she finished her last mission with the agency over a week ago.
"So. Snorkeling, huh?" was all she sent.
The bubbles that meant he was drafting a response popped up so fast, she felt herself smirking a bit smugly. At least this wasn't a one way street.
"Oh dear God no," was all he replied with, and she laughed, jumping onto her bed and snuggling up against her pillow. "She didn't."
"She did. Are you excited?"
"This is going to be the worst day of my life, I can feel it," he texted back, adding a sad face emoji.
Sarah beamed down at her phone. "Why?"
"Me snorkeling with you there to watch? C'mon, lady!"
"Pretty sure the point of snorkeling is to watch fish, so I'll probably be doing that."
The bubbles popped up, then went away. There was a long pause…And they popped up again. Then: "Honestly, I want to be annoyed by your deep-cutting wit but it's just too hot. I really can't be annoyed."
Sarah laughed and shook her head. "What is it kids say these days? LOL?"
"Hahahaha!" He inserted an arrow pointed to his laughter. "That's what I do."
"But does it properly convey the OUT LOUD part of the LOL? I don't think so, Chuck."
"Okay, who's the nerd again? It was supposed to be me buuuuut you're kind of arguing semantics about text message shorthand SLASH acronyms."
"Shut up." He didn't respond to that for a bit and she thought maybe he was just following orders, so she sent another text. "But hold on, why are you so embarrassed?"
"Tall skinny man in a wetsuit, Sarah. TALL SKINNY MAN IN A WETSUIT."
That had her falling over with laughter. He and Ellie probably didn't even realize just how alike they were. She decided not to tell him his sister had said basically the same thing. It probably wouldn't add to his confidence much, and that was her goal here, wasn't it?
"1) Maybe I like tall skinny men, and 2) I have seen tall skinny man in his birthday suit a few times. If I can manage to rent you a wetsuit that's tight enough, it'll basically be the same thing." She sent a smirking emoji face.
"1) At this point you'd have to," he responded a half-minute later. "And 2) Maybe you can rent me a wetsuit that's so tight, I won't be able to breathe and I'll drown and be spared this mortification."
"I'm really good at mouth to mouth," she teased back.
"Hell yes you are." He sent the smirking emoji back to her.
She barked out a laugh and even sent a "LOL" to him. "Go to bed, nerd. See you in the morning?"
"Yeeeeees. (Insert pouty stomping towards bed here)"
Sarah laughed again and grinned so hard her cheeks hurt as she sent a laughing emoji. "Gnight, Chuck."
"Gnight, Sarah. Bonne nuit, if you will."
She forced herself not to respond, knowing that if she did, their texts could go on well into the night. So she would be the one to end the conversation. She reached over to set her phone on the nightstand and she rolled onto her side, facing away from it.
It was incredibly strange, she thought to herself, that for the first time during this whole trip—perhaps for the first time in her life, even—she wasn't thinking about making a tough decision, or what her next step would be, or even if she would survive the next day.
Instead, she was thinking about just how much she was going to enjoy tomorrow. With everything in her, she was just going to enjoy.
When Chuck opened the door the next morning, the first thing he did was pout and make a childish whiny sound, walking away from her as she moved into his suite and flopping dramatically onto the couch, his voice muffled by the cushion.
Sarah laughed and shut the door behind her. "Oh, come onnnn. It's going to be fun."
He grunted and then he flipped onto his side. "Oh, really? You wanna know what the last text was I got from Ellie last night? Ellister? The Grand Ellinator?"
Sarah laughed again as he grabbed his phone from the coffee table and sat up, scanning through it and pulling the text up before handing her his phone. She burst into laughter as she read it: "Your girlfriend is snorkeling with us tomorrow. YOU'RE WELCOME, BROTHER."
"I like the all-caps there," she said. "Really emphasizes the sarcasm."
"She's a professional at texting sarcasm."
She sat next to him with a giggle. "Oh come on, Chuck. It'll be okay. Seriously."
"I know." He smiled at her and she allowed herself a moment to run her gaze down over his shoulders, chest and abdomen which was mercifully not covered with a shirt at the moment. "I'm letting Ellie have this, though. I did not want to snorkel today."
"What'd you want to do instead?"
"I was thinking of finding an empty beeeach," he drawled. "Me and yoooou. Swimming and sunning. Maybe a canoodle or two."
She couldn't hold back the quiet giggle that mostly went through her nose. He was too cute sometimes.
"Awwwww. Well. We're snorkeling today."
Chuck laughed at that.
They made their way down to the lobby and had to wait a few minutes for Ellie and Devon. And Sarah didn't spare the phone she'd hidden in her suite a single thought once the couple arrived.
Ellie's rushed "I'm so sorry. I wasn't sure what to wear!" made Sarah laugh for a good ten seconds. The entire family was just something else.
The rental shack was situated at the edge of the docks, about an 18 minute walk down the coast from their hotel, and when they got there, Devon took the lead.
His French was shaky at best, but it was much better than Chuck's. Nevertheless Sarah could see the swindle coming as the man working the rental place started presenting packages to the obviously American tourist. And Devon leaned in attentively, nodding politely.
The guy had tried it with her, too.
And that was why she delicately stepped forward and put a hand on the counter, sliding in to stand next to the tall blonde. "Sorry to interrupt," she said to Devon in English. "Let me just…" Devon stepped back and waved her to continue. She took his place and switched to French. "We don't need any packages," she said smoothly, knowing this man must've made a lot of money getting tourists packages that cost more but were exactly the same as just renting the equipment normally.
"But if you—"
"Let me just tell you exactly what we'd like to rent, and you can tell me how much money we owe you," she cut in politely. "I'm not sure if you remember, but the whole packages thing didn't work on me last time, did it?" She raised an eyebrow.
To his credit, he chuckled and gave her a goodnatured glare, sliding the brochures for the packages off of the desk and sticking them in a nearby drawer. "What will you be needing?"
Fifteen minutes later, they stood off to the side, their suits slung over their arms, flippers, goggles, snorkels all in hand.
"What exactly happened there?" Devon finally asked.
Sarah pulled her gaze away from Chuck who seemed to be eyeing the wetsuit she held a bit…strangely, was the only way she could put it.
"Oh, he was trying to do the whole Swindle The Tourist thing. That package he was offering you includes this equipment, but it was at least 30 euros more."
"Wait, what?" He looked so offended as Ellie barked out a laugh. "Hey, you're even worse at French than I am, El, so I don't know what you're laughing at." He laughed this time as she glared and swatted his shoulder.
"Well, nobody's as bad as Chuck is," Ellie said, and Devon chuckled.
"What? How'd this become The Diss Chuck Show all of a sudden? I'm not even involved!" The curly-haired brunette dropped his flippers onto the wooden dock and made a face. "For the record, languages are not my strong-suit."
"Not at all," Devon said. "I had to help him with his Spanish homework when we first started dating," he explained to Sarah as he gestured between him and Ellie. "And the poor guy could not get rid of his terrible accent."
"No. Please. Keep going," Chuck droned sarcastically.
"It's alright, bro. Your knowledge of technology is insane. None of us can touch that. You just don't have the brain for languages. It's not wired that way." Devon shrugged.
"Meanwhile, how many languages do you know, Sarah? Was it 10? 11?" Ellie asked, nudging Chuck teasingly.
That got a chuckle out of her brother as he shook his head. Even though Sarah could tell the ribbing was harmless, and that Chuck himself wasn't upset by it, more amused than anything, she felt like she might stir things up a bit.
The ex-assassin tugged her suit up her athletic body, adjusted it a bit once it was on, and turned with her back facing Chuck. She lifted her hair out of the way in a silent signal for him to help her zip her suit up. And as he did so, she shrugged and looked at him over her shoulder.
"They say opposites attract," she said, and she didn't leave much up for interpretation. Sex was dripping off of her words like honey.
And she swept past the three of them with her gear in hand, leading the way towards the water.
She heard Devon, in a not-so-subtle tone of voice, exclaim, "BRO!"
As they came up beside her at the edge of the dock, Sarah fixed her goggles over her eyes and stepped into her flippers, before jumping into the water without hesitation. It was a little cold, thanks to the rains and cooler weather of the last few days, which made her glad Ellie had insisted on the "full enchilada" experience with the wetsuits.
She watched from behind the goggles as her companions folded themselves into their own suits, taking turns zipping each other up. Chuck was ready first, and she did her best to disguise the fact that she was 100% checking him out in his wetsuit.
He didn't look bad at all. On the contrary, it was pretty hot, seeing the black neoprene stretched over his wide shoulders and thin waist, sculpting his thighs, his biceps, clinging to his body. She decided she liked tall men in wetsuits especially. It specifically highlighted the strength in Chuck's body.
Chuck stood at the edge, fixing his goggles over his eyes as she watched. His flippers stuck out over the wooden dock and it was kind of adorable, she thought.
"Come on!" she called up to him.
He pressed his lips together under the mask, his cheeks a little pooched.
Something in him bespoke reluctance, so she moved her goggles back up to her forehead. "Hey! Get in here! What's wrong?"
Ellie jumped in beside Sarah with a loud "WOO!" and made the ex-spy giggle as she treaded water like a professional, watching as Devon jumped in after his fiancée.
"How cold is it?" Chuck asked.
"Okay, but how cold is fine? I need specifics."
"Chuck, stop. You go in the Pacific all the time and this is not even close to that cold," Ellie said.
The look on the self-proclaimed nerd's face was one of utmost amusement, which made Sarah realize he was just being difficult to be funny.
"No, it's fine," she said, fixing her goggles back over her eyes. "The longer he stands up there, the longer I get to check him out in that tight wetsuit."
The splash he made when he lept in just barely muffled the rest of their laughter, and when he popped up again, she saw humor and maybe something else—something she liked very much and was for her alone to see—in his eyes.
Sarah acted as the honorary tour guide, leading them down towards a less populated area where the water was much more clear, lacking in boat traffic, and outfitted with a stunning array of marine life flitting about the rocks and shallows.
Because they only had snorkels, they stayed in the more shallow areas where they could see better without diving down too far.
Eventually, Ellie and Devon wandered far enough away that she and Chuck were virtually alone in their own little pocket. She felt his hand curl around hers, their fingers threaded, and she followed his finger as he pointed. A small school of blue fish swept in a lazy back and forth pattern along the white sandy floor.
Sarah nestled up close to Chuck's side and watched, smiling around the mouthpiece of her snorkel as they darted off quickly, away from the shore.
Unable to hold her breath for much longer, Sarah kicked her feet to swim up and break the surface, she pulled the mouthpiece away from her lips and took a deep breath as Chuck broke next to her, doing the same. He moved his goggles up to his forehead and grinned.
"Okay, I'm glad I didn't miss out on this. It's stunning."
She removed her own goggles, finding her footing on a bit of a mound and standing there with her chin above water as she cleaned the goggles with the water. "See? Much better than swimming, sunning and canoodling."
"I mean, yeah, but we don't necessarily have to nix the canoodling, do we?"
With that, he sidled up close to her and she felt his hands on her hips over the wetsuit. And then he leaned in to kiss her slowly, but the snorkel bonked her on the cheek and they both moved back, chuckling.
"Not as easy to canoodle out here. Noted," he said, still chuckling.
"I can fix that," she said, reaching up to grab his goggles and pulling them off as well, removing the restriction that had existed before. And without missing a beat, she swam into him, rounded his shoulders with her arms, and kissed him soundly.
She admittedly got a little lost, not quite knowing how long they were there for, kissing as the water swelled gently around their shoulders.
And then she heard a feminine "Awwww!" at the same time as, "Say cheese!"
The ex-spy pulled back from the kiss and sent wide eyes over at Devon who treaded water while holding up a water-proof, disposable camera. Chuck laughed, his arms tightening around Sarah.
"Dear God, Devon! Did you go back to 1997 to buy that thing, or what?"
"Hey. They work, okay?"
But Sarah was too focused on the camera to hear anything else the two men bantered over, because her picture was now in that camera and she wasn't sure what to do about it.
Yes, she was free from under the CIA's boot. She was no longer beholden to them, to the job. But she still didn't want her picture taken. Not when it was so easy to take something like that and pass it around. It was like she'd told Casey just the other day: Living in the shadows had been what kept her from being killed all these years.
And that meant not letting anybody capture her likeness in any kind of drawing, painting, photograph. If there were images of her anywhere, she stamped them out. The fact that her enemies didn't know what she looked like was why she was alive now, enjoying this moment.
"Hey…Sarah, you okay?"
She shook herself and looked back at Chuck, feigning embarrassment. "Oh. Yeah! Yeah, that just…You guys surprised me. I wouldn't have been mauling you if I'd known they were there," she said, feeling lame for having to lie.
But her picture was in that camera now, and she wasn't sure she could let it stay there.
"Maul away!" Ellie said. "Though, like, keep it to tame mauling while I'm around. I'd like to actually enjoy my lunch later."
Devon merely flashed a thumbs up and beamed, his perfect teeth shining bright in the sunlight.
They spent another hour exploring, sometimes all of them together, other times breaking off into various pairings, until eventually, they all agreed to swim back to the dock.
Ellie climbed up the ladder and out of the water first, followed by Sarah, then Chuck, and finally Devon. And they all ended up seated at the edge of the dock with their feet dangling down over the water, their gear and suits in a pile behind them.
"Naaature is amaaaziiiing," Ellie sang from next to Sarah, tipping her head back, shutting her eyes, and letting the sun beat down on her face.
"Isn't it, though?" Chuck piped up from Sarah's other side. "Like, imagine getting to see that every day. I wish I was a marine biologist."
"You wouldn't get to play video games every day if you were a marine biologist," his sister answered.
"Oh, good point. Maybe not, then."
Sarah smiled at their banter, but could see Devon fiddling with the camera on his lap on Ellie's other side. And she hated herself for the thoughts she was having. Maybe on their way back she'd bump into him and he'd drop it. Maybe it'd fall in front of a car or something and get run over. Maybe she could sneak into Ellie and Devon's suite and steal the film from the little plastic piece of crap camera he'd probably bought for super cheap in a gift shop or something like that.
Or maybe she wasn't a spy anymore, and she needed to stop thinking like one.
"Let's eat some food," Devon finally said, and she watched as he slipped the camera into the pocket of his cargo trunks. Damn it.
They walked back to the rental place, turning in their gear. And Sarah had to chuckle to herself as she caught the man Chuck called Captain Awesome sending the worker who'd tried to fool him into buying a package "deal" a look that said quite plainly that he was not awesome.
As they retraced their steps from a few hours earlier back to their hotel, Sarah noticed Ellie subtly maneuvering herself to end up at her shoulder. And she smirked inwardly. "So, Sarah…"
Here we go…
"I've been curious. This job of yours…It sounds pretty exciting. Jet-setting around the world, getting to talk to people from all walks of life, experiencing different cultures and different languages…You must have met a lot of really cool diplomats and celebrities, huh?" she asked.
Sarah tucked a strand of still damp hair behind her ear and tilted her head thoughtfully. "Here and there, but I mean, it's not as exciting as it sounds. There is a lot of time spent sitting at a desk, translating texts—" She assumed. She didn't know for sure, but she figured if she made that part up, Ellie wouldn't know the difference, right? "But a lot of it is kind of…dull, you know?"
"Well, it's less talking to people and more just…Well, passing on information. A lot of times, I—I guess I feel like a machine." She got a lost a little. "I'm just kind of there, a mediator, following orders—I-I mean, I have to get everything right. Every nuance."
"Right, you get something wrong and who knows how someone might take it, or what kinds of international incidents it might cause…" Ellie said. "That must be difficult."
"It is. But it's kind of good, I guess, that I go virtually unnoticed for the most part. If they don't know who I am, they can't blame me." She smirked as the brunette laughed.
"Alas! I don't have that safety net. If I fuck up a surgery, they'll know exactly who to blame."
Sarah laughed and then winced a little. "Yikes."
"I know. What kind of freak would get themselves into something like this?" She pointed her thumb at herself and then smiled self-deprecatingly.
"Someone who has the fortitude, courage, and general badassery of a superhero," Chuck chimed in from where he was walking behind them. And Sarah saw him lean forward to grab his sister's shoulders, giving her a teasing squeeze. But as the younger woman glanced back, she saw there was pride in his face.
In that moment, she thought she might've given anything to have someone—anyone—look at her like that.
But when had she ever done anything worthy of pride?
"Mmmm, sweet, Chuck. Really sweet. But I think I'm also a freak."
They all laughed when Devon sang, "She's a very freaky giiiiirl. The kind you don't take home to mothaaaaah."
Chuck threw his hands up. "I think you two just found your First Dance song for the wedding."
Ellie spun to give him an emphatic and almost scary "No" at the same time as Devon double pointing at Chuck and exclaiming, "YES!" Then he turned to his future wife and spread his hands out wide. "Babe, why nooot?"
They laughed together as he darted in to give her a comfortable looking hug from the side, kissing her cheek sloppily. And they broke off together to walk a bit ahead.
Sarah watched with a smile, her smile widening as Chuck slipped in next to her and bumped her shoulder with his, a bit shyly she thought.
"So I'm assuming we're all splitting off to freshen up and meet back for eats. You want to come?"
She hugged herself and nodded a bit. "Yeah. Sure."
"Okay. Cool." There was a slightly awkward pause then. Awkward only because she knew he had something else to say, but for some reason, he just wasn't saying it. And then he finally spoke up. "Just…You know, just so you know. The reason why I didn't invite you myself—for the snorkeling I mean—is that I, um, I was genuinely sure it would be an embarrassing experience." He winced.
She smiled. "First of all, you don't have to worry about me feeling put out about that. So take that off the table." She giggled as he swept his arm out to pretend he was pushing it off an imaginary table. "Good. Secondly, why'd you think it was gonna be so embarrassing?"
"I'm not—" He winced again and sighed. "I'm not all that good at being adventurous. Like I've said, like Ellie's said…I'm really very…Uh, I'm kinda stuck in my ways. Not-Not a conscious choice, mind you. It's just that I have a lot of work all the time, and a lot of responsibilities and I don't make time for other stuff. So every day is…kind of similar. Not that my work is the same every day. Farrrrr from it." He widened his eyes. "But even something as simple as snorkeling had me like 'Ahhhhh oh my Godddd what if I diiiie?' It's incredibly mortifying, but there it is." He narrowed his eyes and looked away, pressing his lips together.
She wanted to ask why her coming had anything to do with that, but the truth was that she already knew. At least, she could surmise. Chuck Bartowski was human, with flaws and frailties, vulnerabilities. He'd misjudged, thought she'd judge, if she saw his nerves, or as he insinuated, his fear. He'd probably thought she'd think he was a wimp.
And even though no man she'd ever slept with before would've ever been afraid of something as simple as snorkeling, if they had been afraid, none of them would have ever admitted it to anyone, let alone to her.
She felt her chest fill up with…something. She didn't know what. But it felt really good. Warm and tight.
She didn't ask. She wouldn't put him through having to admit he was trying to impress her, that this probably wouldn't be very impressive and that was why he'd actively not invited her today.
Instead, she kept it inside, sliding her hand down to thread her fingers with his. She wasn't sure she even knew what to say. But the small smile she saw in her peripheral told her he was reassured enough by her taking his hand.
They did split off to freshen up, as Chuck said they might, with the plan to meet again in the lobby, per usual, in one hour.
And this time, Sarah did press the floor number for her own suite.
She stood in the center of her bedroom a few moments later, staring at the change of clothes she'd grabbed and now held in her hands. Then she turned and eyed the bathroom. She turned again to look down at the clothes in her hands.
The newly retired CIA agent—or perhaps soon-to-be retired, as the case officially was with Graham not contacting her—had heard stories of fellow agents who'd been murdered in bathtubs, in showers. Spies were the most vulnerable during sleep, which was why one of the veteran trainers during her time at the Farm joked about knowing a secret agent by the dark circles under their eyes—something not even the best makeup could disguise. But the second most vulnerable time for an agent was when they bathed. It was a private moment every human privileged enough to have running water at their disposal enjoyed.
Sarah didn't know what other agents did when they bathed or showered, for she'd never been in a shower with one of them, with anyone, before. But she knew she didn't take weapons with her. Knives would rust. And wet guns didn't fire in life-saving moments.
She would be vulnerable if she got into that shower right now.
And she knew, without a doubt, that she'd be even more vulnerable with someone else in that shower with her.
It was a gift to that person if they were an enemy agent. A small and enclosed space, slippery surfaces, hard tile, the mortification of nakedness…all of these would work against her.
Fighting back the nerves, ignoring the tingle in her limbs, the spots at the edge of her vision, and the small nagging voice at the back of her mind telling her this could be a bad, bad decision, Sarah grabbed the unused laundry bag from her closet, shoved her clothes and a few other important pieces into it, and swept out of her suite altogether, deciding on taking the stairs because they were faster, and hoping she hadn't waited too long.
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